Tag Archives: social-emotional learning

Library Lessons: Aug 28-Sep 1, 2017

Week 2!

New this week: students were assigned individual iPads as part of their tech. Hearing this inspired the activity for grades 3&4.


No library this week, as there was an all-day LEGO community build on Thursday. Six hours of building, assisting, & supervision for all grades PreK-4.

K/Grade 1

Warm up: the name song (repeated from Week 1).

Continuing with bears & SEL in the library, I shared Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear: two friends, three stories. This has always been a hit with the young crowd, and this week was no exception.

Our white board introduced a new symbol:

Part of my summer professional reading was Disrupting Thinking by Kyleen Beers & Robert Proust. Inspired by their Book-Head-Heart questioning strategy, I tweaked it to become Book-Brain-Heart. Because it was our first time seeing this strategy and it was with the K/1 students, only one icon was introduced. I believe that you go slow to ultimately go fast, especially in teaching new strategies.

Our questions today were to inspire the BRAIN to connect the story with our SEL expectations of Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest. The students were asked to think of ways Dog and Bear were KIND or SAFE in their stories. After each short story, we stopped and had turn-and-talk discussions with knee-neighbors to share how either Dog or Bear was KIND or SAFE. Interestingly, the children also expanded their discussion to include how they HELPED THE REST.

Self-checkout was better than before, and most children remembered their books. If they didn’t and they still wanted a book, it was allowed.

Grade 2:

Stories with a SEL focus was today’s objective.  Inspired by the Mood Meter from Yale’s RULER SEL curriculum, I created & introduced the emoji Mood Meter. It looks fun and kicked off our discussion: we talked about what the emoji’s might mean, how moods can change throughout the day, and how – if we were OK – we’d feel.  Being OK isn’t bad or good – it’s medium, it’s OK. This led to our story: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s The OK Book, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

Side note: AmyKR is a favorite-favorite of mine.  Share books that you love. Your joy shines through.  Faking excitement or interest in a book? Kids can tell.

While reading, if students agreed with the character that they, too, were OK at ___, they tapped their head three times. This means “I know this” or “I agree here”. Lots of children were OK at kite-flying (must be the wind in London)!

After the story, students were asked to respond to a question on a sticky note: What are you OK at?  These were attached to their library passes so they could be easily distributed. 🙂  In the future, I hope to use Padlet and have kids use their iPads to respond to questions like this.

Grades 3&4:

Tech time! Somewhere in the readings or websites I’d seen in the first three weeks, I got the idea that a student survey was a requirement for my evaluation process.  Some Pinterest searches provided inspiration for our Reading / Library Survey.

Other goals of the survey: to learn reading interests (to drive purchases), to discover likes and questions, and to informally observe/assess overall tech skill and typing comfort. Results to be analyzed in the next two weeks.

Overall, it went well…but there were learning moments.  Too many of my questions required typewritten answers for this group.  Some questions, which were included to learn a bit about the student as a person, weren’t well-received. Others were poorly worded.  Here’s the version I’d use in the future (note: it’s a google doc).

For those wondering how they got to the survey: a tinyurl of our Destiny website, where a link to the survey was placed, made the process fairly painless. If the iPads had a QR code scanner, we’d have done that. By going to the Destiny homepage, we made a shortcut link to the desktop to use in the future.  Storing surveys and weblinks in Destiny is easy and kid-friendly.  Symbaloo would also work.

Both 3rd and 4th also had an intro to the emoji Mood Meter, and 4th had booktalks as part of their hour-long library class.  Another lesson learned: booktalk first, survey second.

Phew. Busy week! Cheers, y’all! –arika

Week 1 in a new library: the behind-the-scenes work

Week 1 of 2017-2018 at my new school is in the books.  But before the lessons and teaching, here’s a bit about how I got there.  It is with careful thought and hard work that Week1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start. Tears were shed as I struggled to learn the school culture, ramp up on the new technology AND sort the library.  But we must start.


The library space is different this year, but notably in that there is no place for a mobile white board for lessons to be written (and I LOVE a white board) and no wall space.  There is an AppleTV, which will be used to display a daily PowerPoint of our lesson.  Sharing our daily plan gives students a heads-up on what is happening and often answers any questions (like “are we checking out today?”). It builds accountability to the library program.


Something new I’m trying this year: a no-limits policy in regard to circulation.  Called “take what you need”, it allows children to do just that: take the books they need for the week. Some weeks, children need more books.  Some weeks, less.  Overall, it’s about meeting their needs and giving them full access to the library collection.  I’ve not done this before, though it’s been percolating for some time.  Look for a mid-year update on how this goes – especially in regard to getting books returned.


Speaking of self-checkout: we’re going for it, even though it’s never been done in this school  I believe in giving students control over their own account, starting as young as possible. This hasn’t always been the case, but time has been a lovely teacher.  How does it work?  With preK/K/1st grades, I’ll be alongside them as we scan their barcode pass and their book(s) together, taking a moment to find their name on the computer screen.  With 2nd/3rd/4th grades, I’ll be nearby as they scan their own items. From past experience, it’s with a hushed awe that they’re “allowed” to do this by themselves.


In order to facilitate self-checkout, children get library passes.  Constructed of heavy posterboard (railroad board), they’re about 3″x11″ in size and have the child’s name and barcode printed on an Avery sticker (the student barcode report can be exported in Destiny, sorted by homeroom). Passes are sorted by grade and color: grade K gets pink, 1 is aqua, 2 is green, etc.  Teacher names/numbers are written in pen in the upper corner to further sort. Some people laminate them to further their life, but I leave them as paper. The library pass doubles as a shelf-marker, too.


Self-checkout gives children a chance to practice our most important words in the most meaningful way: they Do Their Best and Help the Rest. When someone is stuck, another child usually comes to the rescue.  If they forget the order of scanning (pass first, books second), a child often steps in to assist.  Building a community of engaged learners and kind helpers is the most important to the success of the library.  Social-emotional learning is vital to the success of my library program. I’ve “borrowed” the words from my former school to incorporate into my new library: 

These words are part of every lesson for every grade for the first two months.  They’re framed and displayed throughout the library.  We’ll use them as critical thinking stems as we begin to read and think about books. They’re ways to behave, both in school and in life.

Students and teachers often ask if there are any “library rules” aside from the phrases above.  The closest “rule” in the library is “Act Like You’re in a Library”. With an international community, it’s a chance to talk about if libraries are the same across the world.  Students will be asked to explain what these words mean to them.


As for the books, there’s a lovely collection that’s been curated – from series to I Can Read titles to world languages to fiction to picture books and more.  On (good) problem: there’s no wiggle room on shelves and books are bursting out of closets, awaiting shelf-space.  Weeding is Job 1.  Along with weeding, books are being streamlined into fewer categories, rearranged, and given similar call numbers.  Library barcodes are to be in the same spot on all books.

All of this is done for one reason: to best meet the needs of the students.  Self-checkout is easier when a barcode is in the same spot every week.  Finding fiction/nonfiction titles is easier when they’re all in the same general location.  Books are easier to find when the shelves have some space in which to browse and display. Behavior is easier to manage when we’re all on the same page regarding expectations and value the social-emotional learnings.  The library experience and learning should be enjoyable and memorable because the child and his/her developmental need is at the heart of every decision.

Again, I write this to share that it’s with careful thought and hard work that Day 1 happens.  If you’re opening a new-to-you library, I get it: It is HARD and likely feels overwhelming, as though you don’t know where to start.  So pick one thing and START.  It’s not magic, and it’s not pretty.  It’s messy and sweaty and time-consuming. And it will take a long time.  But START.  You can do it.  And if I can help, please ask.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

This Is How We Do It by Matt LaMothe

There’s been a push in education (and in school libraries) to make connections with those outside of our building.  Tools like Skype and Google Hangouts make it easier to see and interact with children outside our school walls, but those connections are usually across the US.  Trying to get out of North America and learn about others in the world is harder, if for no other reason than the time differences. And that’s where books and librarians can come into play.

It takes a concerted effort to teach global understanding and build empathy for others.  Finding titles that encompassed multicultural backgrounds and deepened world understanding AND are engaging read-alouds is even harder.  Lucky for us, there’s a new book to make teaching global literacy a bit easier.

This is How We Do It: one day in the lives of seven kids from around the world by Matt LaMothe

Children take center stage as they explain what their daily lives are like in seven diverse countries around the world.  Because none of the countries featured are from North America (children from Japan, Russia, Uganda, Peru, India, Iran, and Italy are included), it stands to reason that this was created for children with background knowledge from that continent.  The big takeaway is that we have similarities regardless of where we are from: we play, we go to school, we eat meals, etc.  It’s the little details that make our countries, our cultures, distinctive: while many children walk to school, it is what they experience on that walk – from mosques to fruit stands to cafes – that is unique to their country and culture.  The crisp font and child-like illustrations lend themselves to sharing with a group, and the captions on each page, describing the child’s experience in each country, are brief yet informative.  A book with a timeless quality, this is highly recommended.  Share with ages 6-10.

For teachers developing and implementing social-emotional learning in their classrooms, This is How We Do It is a must-purchase. Oftentimes, a lack of cultural awareness or knowledge is what leads to exclusion and bullying in schools.  There are rich research opportunities within these pages, too. Paired alongside the CultureGrams database, students could research about lives of children not featured in this book and – potentially – create their own.

Were I still teaching in the Northwest, this would be the 4th book in a “Learners Around the World” unit (the other three are Rain School, Waiting for the Biblioburro, and I’m New Here).


This Is How We Do It publishes on May 2, 2017.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Social-Emotional Learning in the Library

This year, our school focus is Social-Emotional Learning. Yes. SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING.

During our Learning Instruction Days, our staff revamped our (outdated) school Tiger PRIDE focus (which, after 5+ years, I should know the meaning of…a telling sign).  As a group, we wrote and voted on our 4 school-wide expectations. Great care was taken to write the expectations (not rules) in child-friendly language. Any 5 or 11 year old should understand these words.  Notably missing is the word “respect” – a vague, all-encompassing word if there ever was one.

Be Kind.   Be Safe.    Do your best.    Help the rest.IMG_2536

Excited and hopeful don’t come close to expressing how I feel about this focus.  Having observed Montessori teachers the last 5 years and read numerous books on embracing the whole child, I know that successful classrooms must build social-emotional behavior, learning and lessons whenever needed, not just when convenient.  We can teach it anytime, but it’s taking the time to drop everything and focus on tough SEL issues when they crop up that is challenging.

So… how do these expectations and Social-Emotional Learning look in the library?

First, there is this quote:


To me, Ginott captures the heart of social-emotional learning. I know that SEL starts with me. Modeling positive behaviors is a must. Showing students – and telling them with grace and courage – that I’m doing my best during tough situations let’s them know that it’s not always easy for me, either. Acknowledging student for helping the rest – classmates, me, the library as a whole – is also important. And staying safe by walking, pushing in chairs, and quietly removing yourself when there is a seating dispute are discussed and encouraged. I speak using overwhelmingly positive, peaceful words. I aim to be predictable in my temperament and actions. Empowering children to love the library is my goal, and they won’t do that if I’m yelling/moody/unpredictable.

There is a large poster in the story pit with our four school (and life) expectations. We review these words every week before class, and I write them on the whiteboard.  I highlight any that may be particularly useful during the lesson (help the rest – if we’re using a new tech, etc.) Total time: 30-60 seconds.

Some examples of how the expectations were modeled in the first two weeks:

  • Be kind: A K student was surreptitiously pulling the hair of another. The girl turned around, yelled at the hair-puller, then folded inward and cried. I stopped the story, got down on their level, and spoke to both in a peaceful voice. I said that hair-pulling is not okay, neither at school or in life, choosing not to acknowledge the guilty party yet.  I asked the hair-got-pulled girl if the other student apologized. She wouldn’t look at me, so I asked again, requesting that she look at my eyes. She did look and answered, “no”. To the whole class, I said, “Pulling hair is not okay. It is not kind, and we are kind at school” using a quiet voice. At this point, the hair-puller acknowledged herself and said it was an accident.  About a minute had past and the rest of the class was silent. Now, apologies. I asked the class how you know if something is an accident.  Someone says, “you have to say sorry”.  I agreed, reiterating for the group that if you don’t say “sorry” – while making eye contact and using a kind voice – the other person think you were trying to hurt them.  Apologies were made and accepted, tears dried, and the lesson moved on.  Total time: around 3 minutes.
  • Be safe: Students sit on stairs to listen to stories. Sometimes, feet and bodies are too close. Students are aware that, to be safe, they are able to move to a better learning space at any point during our lesson. This idea of being a problem-solver is reiterated for the first month of school. I do notice trouble, but I won’t stop the lesson if I feel a child can solve the problem independently by making safe choices that work for them. During the first 2 weeks, a half-dozen students moved during lessons – most quietly, without disruption – to stay safe.
  • Do your best: I ask students to leave the library looking as good or better than they found it. In this way, each child can do their best. It took a class 5 extra minutes to leave, as they would not push in chairs and return pencils to the basket. My statement to them: “You are not doing your best for our library and for the next class by leaving materials around the room and chairs scattered.” Then…
  • Help the rest: Library class always ends with the statement to leave the room looking as good as, if not better than, you found it.  “If you notice a problem, step in and help the rest.” It’s interesting to watch which students will volunteer to help others and the library space as a whole. Often, it’s the children I least expect.


Our school received fantastic signage created by our colleague’s daughter, author/illustrator Lara Kaminoff. And though this poster will be hung throughout the building, I hold hope that it’s lessons will be embraced and encouraged, taught and retaught by both students, staff, and families.  May these SEL lessons in life stay with us this year and for years to come.

Library Lessons: Sep 1-4, 2015

Whoo-hoo! Week 1 of 2016-2016!

Kindergarten: All my best hints for teaching the K’s are here. During week 1, we: play Library iSpy, talk with my friend Tiger, get to know names using the squishy ball, follow the leader using tiger paw hands, learn where/how to sit down, read a story. Notice there is no check out…that’s next week.

2nd grade:  The sequel to last year’s WCCPBA winner! We read The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, connected the story to our school social-emotional learning goals, and checked out ONE book. With no volunteers and large classes, having a slow start for checkout (1 item 1st week, 2 items 2nd week, etc) makes for a smoother, less harried start.

4th grade: Another story with crayons, but geared for the upper readers. Red by Michael Hall seems written for the SEL curriculum. Students were acutely aware of characters trying their best but still failing, for a red-wrapped crayon can’t color red if he’s blue underneath.  Lots of discussion was also generated around helping others (or Help the Rest, as we say).  Help looks many different ways, and sometimes the most well-intentioned help is really hurtful.